Info Requests

posted in: InfoRequests 7

I have received a number of info requests in the past little while. Ashley Trytsman wrote:

I came across your site and it is amazing! I love Durban, my growing up stomping ground:) Please can you advise/ point me in the right direction. I am trying to get any info/ pics on AKALS toy store that was located in Stamford Court in Stamford Hill rd. back in the eighties. Any help would be greatly appreciated- All the very best for the year to come and with your lovely website.

Marie Levine wrote:

You clearly love Durban History, and do too!. I was curator of the Maritime Exhibit for Durban Expo 86 and fell in love with your city.
I am hoping your can help me with two queries;
1) Do you, or do know where I could find a photo of XL tearoom, circa 1920s? I heard so much about it but don’t know where on the beachfront it was located or what it looked like.
2) And I’ve also been searching for a photo of Battery Beach/Natal Command in 1906. There was a shark attack on an Indian male who was washing horses there…am trying to figure out why he was there & doing that because he was a “lamp lighter for Durban Corporation”
Could kick myself that I didn’t look for both in the Durban History Museum when last I was in Durban…I haven’t been able to find either on the Internet. Can’t even get any bunnies here in the USA!!

Derek Austin asked:

Can anyone remember a Portuguese supper club in Point Road near the Wheel circa 1986/7?

Natalie Nel wrote:

Hello Allan,
I am interested in finding out more about Umbilo and I was given your website, which I have perused, but have not found anything related to Umbilo. I was wondering if you have any info on where I can get more history into Umbilo. I know there was a concentration camp in Congella and many of the houses/flats were built by the Whaling station and the old Durban Corporation. I also know that Umbilo was once a farm/two farms.

Most people don’t even know Umbilo and it would be nice to know more about the place. I have researched the archives and found bits and pieces, but nothing really concrete. It would be lovely to see old photos/find out any info. If you can help in any way, I really would appreciate it.

Adrian Burgerhoff wrote:

I have always wondered about the history of Durban, and your site provides a lot of answers! Although, a recent thought has plagued me, the meaning of the name Poets’ Corner in Queensburgh. I have searched for a link to the old part of Westminster Abbey but nothing is clear cut. Could you perhaps help me with the answer?

Casey Crew asked:

I was wondering if you could help me, I’m looking for when the bridge in Verulam – Canelands was built?

Picture courtesy Casey Crew.
Picture courtesy Casey Crew.
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7 Responses

  1. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Marie
    I have a newspaper cutting from the Daily News dated 21 August 2009 which featured the XL Tearoom. The cutting coincided with the closing of the XL tearoom . The article was written up by Noelene Barbeau . You could contact the Daily News to see if she is still employed there. The cutting includes a picture of the original XL Tearoom in 1922 along with others. It is not too clear but shows the original building. The cutting covers half a newspaper page so would be rather too large to post on this site. The cutting indicates that the XL Tearoom was started in 1922 by Greg Short’s great grandmother and he has the original photo.

  2. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Ashley
    Strange request but I think I can throw a little light on the subject. I lived in the Sutton Park area in the 1960’s and knew the Akal Building and actually got to know some of the Akals as well. They were a big family and many of the older brothers (all now deceased) lived in the area especially in Windermere Road and Innes Road.

    To back track a little, one of Durban’s earliest toy stores was that opened by Reg Woodroffe and went by the name Redgwoods. The shop was in Mark Lane and in the late 60s early 70s Reg was the main source for electric model trains in Durban. He also had all the accessories , model buildings etc that went with the hobby which was quite popular at the time. The late Carl Peters then a Glenwood High School student worked in his shop as a part time assistant. Reg also had the Durban Doll Hospital and any doll could be taken in for repair and refurbishment. I did not know Reg that well but did meet him in his shop as I was also interested in model trains at the time. I know Reg would go overseas annually to the Nuremberg Toy Fair and bring back the latest models . I am relating this as Redgwoods in a way has a link with Akals Toy Store.

    The Akals Building in the 1960s was slightly different as to what it is today. It stood on the corner of Stamford Hill and Harvey Roads. The building had a recess under the building on the corner of Stamford Hill and Harvey Roads and in the recess was located the Akals Garage. It was a Mobil outlet, later Engen.

    Next to the one end of the garage was the entrance to the Akals Building, or should I say the flats above which was called Stamford Court. The flats were much sought after as they were well supervised and the building was always kept in good condition. Next to the entrance was the main retail outlet which was motor spares, tools, fishing equipment, arms and ammunition, bicycles and toys. At that time it was the elder brothers who ran the Akals business namely Fred, George, Eddie and Ernest. There was another brother Alec if I recall. I cannot recall when the Akal brothers handed over the reins to their sons, probably early 70s, but the younger generation took over and the Akals “empire” was seemingly divided and allocated to certain children. The toys section became Bernard Akal’s domain. At this time, the Akals Group bought property across the road from the Akals Building and the garage under the building was moved across to a brand new large Engen service station, which still stands today. The space vacated by the garage was changed into more retail space and the corner area became Akals Toy Store.

    By this time Reg Woodroffe was getting on in years and then a catastrophe happened in that a fire gutted Redgwoods in Mark Lane. I cannot recall the exact year and do not know the details but the fire was disastrous for Reg Woodroffe and he sold the business to Akals, I presume to Bernard Akal.
    I do not want to be quoted on this but I think Redgwoods then started expanding and whether franchised or not, several Redgwood shops appeared in Durban. At roughly the same time Akals Motor Spares and Tools became linked to the Midas brand in some way and Derrick Akal took over the Fishing and Sports side of the business. This carried on well into the 90s mid 2000s. By this time the Akals group had bought many of the adjacent properties in Stamford Hill Road that had come onto the market.

    On 8th November 2007, the entire portfolio of 19 properties including Akals Building, the service station, vacant lands, retail and office complexes etc were put up for auction by the Alliance Group.
    So came to an end the Akals link to this part of Stamford Hill Road which from what I recall goes back to the late 20’s / early 30s. There was a large article in the papers some years ago now about how the Akals Empire started. I have kept the half page advertisement regarding the auction of the properties in 2007 which I have used as reference. The advertisement has photos of 11 of the properties which if you lived in the area you would identify. Unfortunately newsprint does not copy too well so I cannot reproduce them on FAD.

    By a twist of fate, when Reg Woodroffe died his widow was put onto me as a possible person who could get rid of the remains of his model train stuff that he had kept for himself. I duly visited Mrs Woodroffe in her house in La Lucia and I agreed to sell off the remains for her. There was quite a large accumulation of very good material. So much so that in reply to an advertisement that I had placed in a newspaper, an interested person from Johannesburg and I met in the visitor’s lounge of the Royal Hotel and did a deal over a suitcase full of model trains that I had brought along. I would dare to say this was a first for the Royal Hotel ! Amazingly I managed to sell everything within a short time and surprised Mrs Woodroffe when I handed over her “takings”. Strange how the wheel turns.

  3. Trev
    | Reply


    My great grandfather (who was a flower hawker) appeared on the cover of a directory that I vaguely recall from the 1980’s. Ive contacted Telkom, who were very helpful, but none of the covers match. The very helpful gentleman suggested I look at old “Durban Corporation” directories from around this period. Any idea where I can start checking for this?


  4. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Trev,
    In 1969 the Durban Corporation Telephone Department was absorbed into the National network. This was a necessity as national direct trunk dialling was being introduced and it was impossible to continue with a “private telephone network” operating outside the national network. Thereafter all Durban telephone numbers fell under the Dept. of Posts and Telecommunications (later to be known as Telkom) and the directories were printed as “Government” issue. These directories used to have pictured front covers and the Durban directories if I recall would have a Durban picture. Directories were produced on an “area” basis, much as they are today. The Durban Corporation I know had a large private automatic exchange which serviced the internal network of the then Durban Corporation, that is Durban Corporation personnel could directly, by dialling contact departments they wanted. There were many departments so the “extensions” would have been numerous. I am not aware that the Durban Corporation specifically produced internal telephone directories save to say it would have been expensive but no doubt some plain internal directory was issued. Possibly you could go to the Durban Reference Library and ask them if they have any record of these “Durban Directories” remembering that they would have been internal directories only. If I recall, the government telephone directories front covers were never glossy covers but more a “harder wearing” matt finish card type paper.

    • Trev

      Thanks Gerald. Really appreciate the help.


  5. Marie Goding
    | Reply

    Derek Austin asked:

    Can anyone remember a Portuguese supper club in Point Road near the Wheel circa 1986/7?

    Hi Derek – yes, it was originally called “Victoria Bar” and was owned by the Martins family. Mr Martins passed away in the late 80’s and his family moved back to Portugal. Not sure whether it was onsold or not.


    • Derek Austin

      Marie I know the place you talking about. Turns out the club I was looking for was called El Cassador in Point Road.

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